Additive Crystal

Additive crystal is a collection of lamps that combines two additive manufacturing techniques. Man-made, 3D-printed frames continue to grow after the printing is done, developing their own crystal skin.

The process of 3D-printing and the forming of mineral crystals seem worlds apart, but are actually based on the same principle, slowly materializing layer by layer. Fascinated by their similarities and differences, I managed to manipulate them into a co-creative unity. Both materials need a day to complete their part of the structure. The printing is controlled, precise, and industrial. The crystals are unpredictable, stubborn, and organic. One strengthens fragility and the other contributes sparkle and translucency.

“The frames are identical, their skin is unique”

Uniting similarity & contrast

This series of lamps combines two additive manufacturing techniques: 3d printing and mineral crystals. Both processes take several days, slowly adding material layer by layer, growing their own complexity. The printing is controlled, precise, and industrial. The crystals are unpredictable, stubborn, and organic. This contrast highlights their co-dependence: one strengthens fragility and the other contributes sparkle and translucency.

Making 3d Printing grow

The project I want to realize is to combine modern 3d printing techniques with the oldest ancient form of 3d printing: mineral crystals.

Mineral crystals are in a way a form of additive manufacturing that has existed since before there were even living organisms, forming solids layer by layer in the earth crust under completely natural circumstances. In contrast, industrial printing uses high tech machines in a controlled environment to create completely manmade shapes. Both processes build up material in layers. Both are not fast techniques, slowly growing to completion. These are two techniques that have a completely different form language, one organically unpredictable and one very precisely man-made. They have different strengths and weaknesses and both have their own design restrictions. But down to the essence, they are based on the same process.

The past months I have been experimenting with growing crystals, understanding this process, trying different chemical solutions and exploring the possiblities of the aforementioned combination. When combining these materials, I aim to make them co-dependant. The crystals cannot grow in thin air, they are fragile, look precious, and will cling to any support they can grab onto. 3D printing allows for any shape, virtually unlimited intricacy, and a way to 'design the crystals'. They are a perfect fit.

I've found that making crystals follow the desired shape isn't easy but creates a magnificent effect. In nature crystals are stubborn. You'll not find them growing in straight lines, in perfect circles or in regular patterns. While in the past weeks I've accomplished just that, setting them to my own hand.


FIRST experiments

These photos show the first 3D printed structures combined with growing materials. These experiments were the start of the research around the question "What if our 3D prints could grow?" 

Can 3D prints break the size barrier by growing?
Can printed structures be filled in by organic materials?
How do printed and growing materials interact when combined?

3D printers have become more and more refined; ironically making products smaller and more detailed, instead of bigger. I wanted to use this refinement and break with it at the same time. Precision is great, but with it come long print times. If i could make the print a skeleton for the growing material, I would save time, material and money. While the growing material also adds uniqueness. 

Salt crystals growing on PLA woodfill print
Seeds sprouting inside and on silicone print
Foam expanding through ABS print